I was reading a science fiction book last week. I was content with it for much of the book. It started out on earth with realistic characters. Then, as with all science fiction, things have to get a little far-fetched to make contact with another world. This part was no surprise. Things began to gradually grow more and more unbelievable with the introduction of new creatures with more incredible features. The storyline had been engaging prior to this, so I began to wonder, “Was this necessary?”
Eventually, the story turned into apocalyptic fiction, as the fate of the universe turned out to be at stake. Then I really had to wonder, “Why?”
I didn’t select the book because I was looking for apocalyptic fiction. In fact, I had no idea this was coming. If this element wasn’t there to sell the book to apocalyptic fiction readers, then why was it there? Surprise, you’re reading apocalyptic fiction; you’re halfway through the book, so you might as well keep on reading, like it or not.
It made me reflect how many apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels there are.
Does the fate of the universe really need to be at stake in order to make a book worth reading? If the universe might not end, does that make the book unimportant?
Surely, a book can please readers through storyline, characterization, cool ideas, style, word flow, and other aspects. It shouldn’t have to seem like the most important thing in the universe to be worth reading, right?
Personally, I’d like things to be somewhat less ambitious, somewhat more plausible. However, I’m just one reader, and that’s not a good statistical sample. Many readers do seem to be into apocalyptic fiction. As an author, if you’re hoping to sell more books, you should try to learn the tastes of your specific target audience.
This varies by genre, too. If you’re writing about zombies, post-apocalyptic fiction may be the norm; for a whodunit, this would be an unusual twist.
How do you feel about this? Do you want the fate of the universe to hang in the balance of your novels?
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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers